Kearney Nebraska – Sandhill Crane Migration
Nearly 80% of North America’s Sandhill Crane population stops over on the Platte River near Kearney Nebraska on their flyway north. This region is rich in a food source (now spent corn) and relative protection from predators. Although not a birder by trade, I am not one to miss out on an epic opportunity.
The best way to see the birds up close is by reserving an overnight blind. Our reservation was for past-peak after most birds usually have left. Luckily, unfavorable winds kept most of the birds from flying north – instead, they opted to continually fatten themselves on spent corn from the prior years harvest.
We arrived to our bird blind, which is a 6 x 8 foot 4 walled structure. Accompanied by a flask of whiskey, a ton of camera equipment, and a pot to pee into – this is where we would spend the next 14 hours. Putting the glamour aside, we settled into our new cramped home before the birds returned to their roost. As the sunset torched the sky orange, the birds came back in massive numbers, landing feet away. Hands down, this was one of the coolest things I have witnessed – perhaps those birders are on to something.
The next morning, the birds were quite boisterous. The river was fogged over, which meant that instead of all taking off in unison – the birds had a lazy morning sauntering around the sandbars. The next day we watched the birds from various nearby viewpoints, however, this was somewhat lackluster compared to watching them up close and personal.
Pros: one of North America’s great migrations does not disappoint
Cons: the tight quarters of the bird blinds are perhaps too tight to share
Tips: mid-march is usually peak. Book your blinds early (and if you can, spring for your own!).